Top 5: Raleigh + Southport + Oak Island

A little over a year ago I visited North Carolina for the first time. Other than family trips to Florida, it was my first Southern experience. It did not disappoint! Everyone is so friendly and polite, and the food is amazing. I've been back twice since then and I seem to discover something new every time I go. Here are some highlights from the latest trip: 

1.    French-inspired tin trays. I found the smaller one at Mad River, a new nautical-inspired shop in Southport. Then, ten minutes later, I happened across the larger one at an antique store called the Galleria. You can never have too many tin trays with cute French sayings on them, right?

2.    Sunsets on the beach. I know it's a cliche but there really is nothing like it. We had a bonfire on New Year's Eve. There's something about sitting by a warm fire, listening to the waves crash on the beach behind you, and watching the sky turn from blue to orange to pink to red to purple.

3.    Lighthouses + bike rides. The Oak Island Lighthouse is one of six active lighthouses in North Carolina. Its color blocked exterior is not exactly the classic diagonal striped pattern you think of when you think of lighthouses but it's very on-trend! The weather was a bit cooler on this trip compared to our last visit in April but I was determined to bike there. So we bundled up as best we could and hopped on our beach cruisers. The view alone makes it completely worth it! Biking on Bald Head Island to 'Old Baldy' is also recommended.

4.    Carolina 'cue. I like Sweet Baby Ray's just as much as the next person but I'm talking about vinegar-based pulled pork from Smithfield's. YUM.

5.    Videri Chocolate Factory. Downtown Raleigh is jam-packed with adorable restaurants but a chocolate factory? No contest there! The building itself is an old train station. Plus, self-guided tours and chocolate sampling is FREE. But once you try the Sea Salt Dark Chocolate, you won't be able to resist buying some.

Has anyone else been to NC? Any places you love to go? I'd love to hear them!